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July 30, 2019
9781421429533
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v2.1 Reference

Sailing School

Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800

Throughout the Age of Exploration, European maritime communities bent on colonial and commercial expansion embraced the complex mechanics of celestial navigation. They developed schools, textbooks, and instruments to teach the new mathematical techniques to sailors. As these experts debated the value of theory and practice, memory and mathematics, they created hybrid models that would have a lasting impact on applied science.

In Sailing School, a richly illustrated comparative study of this transformative period, Margaret E. Schotte charts more than two hundred years of navigational history as she investigates how mariners solved the challenges of navigating beyond sight of land. She begins by outlining the influential sixteenth-century Iberian model for training and certifying nautical practitioners. She takes us into a Dutch bookshop stocked with maritime manuals and a French trigonometry lesson devoted to the idea that "navigation is nothing more than a right triangle." The story culminates at the close of the eighteenth century with a young British naval officer who managed to keep his damaged vessel afloat for two long months, thanks largely to lessons he learned as a keen student.

This is the first study to trace the importance, for the navigator's art, of the world of print. Schotte interrogates a wide variety of archival records from six countries, including hundreds of published textbooks and never-before-studied manuscripts crafted by practitioners themselves. Ultimately, Sailing School helps us to rethink the relationship among maritime history, the Scientific Revolution, and the rise of print culture during a period of unparalleled innovation and global expansion.

About the Author

Margaret E. Schotte is an assistant professor of history at York University.

Reviews

"As voyages stretched into open ocean, mathematical expertise in celestial navigation became essential. Hands-on instruction with instruments remained key, but as historian Margaret Schotte reveals in this deft, scholarly chronicle, the nautical manual soon came into its own."

- Barbara Kiser - Nature

"Sailing School deploys compelling printed images and manuscript notations to reconstruct the practice of learning, a particularly difficult feat for a phenomenon that takes place in an intangible mental realm. In fusing the history of learning and print with that of navigation, Schotte shows how deep transformations in public intellectual culture built on themselves."

- Sarah Kinkel - Times Higher Education

"Schotte, in combination with Johns Hopkins University Press, has produced a beautifully illustrated, perceptively argued, well-written monograph that enhances historical understandings of not just early modern navigation, but also of early modern technical education and the lived experience of the pre-industrial maritime world. Sailing School exemplifies the kind of original work that close archival research can yield and will be a definitive work on its subject for years to come."

- Timothy S. Wolters - Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies

"[A] valuable academic study. Sailing School is well-written with copious documentation."

- James C. Hamilton - Captain Cook Society

"Sailing School provides us with a technically researched history of navigational pedagogy with enough captivating prose to transport the reader into the decisions and methods of educators in classrooms from past centuries... Schotte has produced an exceptional history of education for a snapshot of time within a highly technical field."

- Darrell J. Glaser, United States Naval Academy - EH.Net

"Sailing School is and extremely informative look into the practice and transmission of navigational knowledge in Europe during the scientific revolution, and how text helped to codify and communicate that information to new practitioners."

- Kendra Lawrence, East Carolina University - Nautical Research Journal

"Schotte's book is an important contribution to maritime history and absolutely should be on the shelf of all interested in the details of seafaring life in the age of sail, as well as those studying Europe's centuries of expansion and conquest. I strongly recommend this book accordingly."

- Ian Yeates - The Northern Mariner

Endorsements

"An enjoyable and enlightening read. Sailing School is an original, perceptive, and scholarly addition to work on the history of navigation and seafaring in a period that saw important changes across Europe. It should appeal to anyone with an interest in maritime history, as well as those interested in the history of science, mathematics, and education."

- Richard Dunn, Royal Museums Greenwich, author of The Telescope: A Short History

"Well-conceived and rich in empirical detail, this fascinating study traverses with ease between the worlds of print, teaching, and book learning and the worlds of seafaring, navigational practice, and instrumentation. Sailing School beautifully shows the extremely rich traditions of navigational print and the cross-dissemination across linguistic, political, and geographical boundaries. An outstanding, highly original piece of scholarship, this will be the standard, go-to book for years to come."

- Pamela O. Long, author of Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400–1600

"Sailing School is a highly original book on navigation skills in early modern Europe. Drawing on a wide range of sources in many different languages, Margaret E. Schotte has written the first truly transnational history of nautical training, one which compellingly shows the crucial role of books. This is a brilliant contribution to maritime history and the history of knowledge."

- Karel Davids, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, coeditor of Innovation and Creativity in Late Medieval and Early Modern European Cities

"This careful and innovative book offers a challenging account of the various ways in which western European states discussed and planned the training of navigators in the period between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. With its impressive analysis of the widest range of writings by mariners, educators, administrators, and mathematicians, Sailing School convincingly challenges received models of the transition from practice to print and from experience to theory in early modern Europe. In its subtle interpretations of shipboard life and technical expertise, this welcome publication will be essential reading for historians of education and of science, of maritime culture and of the emergence of modern systems of technical authority."

- Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge, coauthor of Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life

"You might envision an early navigator tying knots and reefing sails as adroitly as he sets a course, but would you also credit him with a mastery of multiplication tables, trigonometry, and logarithms? Thanks to Margaret Schotte's personal voyage through several centuries' worth of seamen's texts from maritime countries, Sailing School teaches us what sailors had to learn on land to find their way at sea."

- Dava Sobel, author of The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

"It is immediately clear that Schotte knows how to draw readers into sweeping historic events, enriching the story with detail and accuracy to inspire awe... From technical advancements to highly charged personal stories, Schotte's book is a fascinating read."

- Megan Mueller - yFile - York University's News

"It is the immediacy of its subject matter that makes Sailing School so richly fascinating... Multinational in its approach, it offers insights into what was distinctive about pedagogy and practice in England, Spain, France and the Netherlands, and analysis of the extent to which knowledge and expertise were shared and transferred – not least through the medium of print. What one 17th-century teacher called 'This Art of Traversing and Caravanning over Neptune's Vast Dominions' has found in Schotte a gifted, lucid and illuminating chronicler."

- Mathew Lyons - Literary Review

"The history of getting from A to B is usually told as the history of instruments... But Margaret Schotte, in her excellent Sailing School, argues convincingly that the history of how ships, people, and goods move across vast distances must also be, perhaps quite centrally, a history of the book. Sailing School is a history of how early modern navigators learned to become navigators, and it holds important lessons for early modern knowledge as a whole."

- William Rankin, Yale University - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society

"Sailing School, with its comparative analysis of academic traditions and training practices across Europe, is a magnificent contribution in the fields of History, History of Education, Pedagogy, Sociology, and Science in general. Margaret Schotte shows that "navigators were not born but made", enriching with new data and interpretations the history of knowledge in the Early Modern period. With a rigorous investigation and a brilliant narrative, she brings the European nautical science of the 16th and 17th centuries directly into the Scientific Revolution."

- Silvana Munzi - RUTTER Book Review
Johns Hopkins University Press
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